Military State Coup Attempt In Guinea

There were reports of gunfire in Conakry in the area of the presidential palace on the 5th of September. Armored vehicles and pick-up trucks have been seen moving towards an area close to the palace. Al Jazeera reported that residents were told through loudspeakers to keep indoors. Later the same day, videos on social media showed President Condé seemingly being detained by soldiers. Another video was released where a group of elite soldiers claims they have captured the president and that they are dissolving the constitution, dissolving the government, and closing the borders. The constitution was changed back in May 2020 after a referendum. Of those who voted, 92% supported the constitutional changes.

Condé was serving his third term as president after elections in October last year. A president can only serve for two terms according to the previous constitution. However, the referendum made it possible for Condé to run for a third term. In fact, due to the constitutional reform, Condé could be president for 12 more years. The new constitution says that a president can serve two terms of six years, but fail to mention if this also applies to those who have already sat two-term according to the old constitution. In this way, Condé manages to not only give himself a third term but also a fourth. It is worth pointing out that the bill did not only include changes of president terms, it also forbids female genital mutilation, child marriages, and forced marriages, as well as states equality between spouses and promises wealth distribution.

Despite what the polls indicate, the referendum was controversial. Leading up to the voting day there had been protests and over 30 people had died. The opposition saw the referendum as a power grab. The umbrella opposition group, The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), boycotted the referendum. International actors voiced their concerns about if the referendum would be free and fair. As a result, over 2.5 million unverifiable names were removed from the register. When the referendum did take place, internet access was partly blocked.

After the results of the referendum were announced people started protesting on the streets again and it quickly turned violent. Human Rights Watch has reported that in the time between the referendum and the October presidential election, security forces “frequently used excessive and at times lethal force” to suppress protesters against the constitutional reform as well as arbitrarily arrest members of FNDC. The October election was also marked by protests. Reuters reported that after the announcement on Sunday, several people celebrated on the street and one woman shouted, “Guinea is free. Bravo!”

Witnesses told Reuters that the elite army responsible for Sunday’s events was being led by Mamady Doumbouya. Doumbouya is a former French legionnaire that returned to Guinea in 2018. The video that was released on Sunday shows the leader of the military coup with the Guinean flag wrapped around his shoulder, some news sites report that this is Doumbouya. The armed group calls themselves “The National Committee of Gathering and Development” (sometimes translated as “National Rally and Development Committee”). Their leader claims he is on the people’s side, and that it is his duty as a soldier to save the country. It is unclear if the referral to entrusting politics and leaving it to the people are indications that a new democratic election will be held. However, in the video, the leader claims they will form an intermediate government.

The United States has publicly condemned the events. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, tweeted: “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé.” Moreover, Nigeria has called for a return to constitutional order and the African Union has said that the AU Peace and Security Council will urgently meet to discuss Guinea. As of now the future of Guinea is uncertain, including if this coup will be successful. The Defense Ministry claims that the attack on the presidential palace in the capital of Conakry was deterred. How much of the Guinean government is still standing is unknown as of now.